Nigeria will be at the Winter Olympics for the first time ever

Next stop, PyeongChang.
Next stop, PyeongChang.
Image: AP Photo/Lee Jin-man
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An African team will participate in the sport of bobsled for the first time ever at the Winter Olympics thanks to three Nigerian ladies.

US-based trio of Seun Adigun, the team driver and leader, Akuoma Omeoga and Ngozi Onwumere have qualified for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, after completing the fifth of their five qualifying races. The trio’s journey to Pyeongchang has been pretty much self-engineered. For starters, Nigeria had no national team or federation for the sport before the trio popped up.

Last December, at the start of their qualifying bid, Adigun and her team had to resort to crowdfunding to back their ambition as Nigerian sports authorities had made no provisions for winter sports. Those efforts paid off as their GoFundMe met their $75,000 target. Even better, their achievement attracted interest from global brands with Under Armour and Visa coming on board as sponsors.

The Nigerian bobsled  team’s uphill path to the Winter Olympics is one that familiar to other African athletes who’ve participated at the event. In 1984, Lamine Guèye, a Senegalese skier acknowledged as the first black African participant in the event requested the International Ski Federation to set up a federation in Senegal. More recently, in 2002, Isaac Menyoli had to start a national skiing federation before making Cameroon’s only appearance at the winter games. In cases where federations already existed, athletes often had to bootstrap their participation.

Having made the big leap, Adigun says the team is hoping to make winter sports more prominent in Nigeria. “Nothing makes me prouder than to know that I can play a small role in creating opportunities for winter sports to take place in Nigeria,” she told ESPN. ”Our objective now is to be the best representation of Africa that the Winter Olympics have ever witnessed.”